Smoke snuff

1/15/2014

No sense in any nonsmoker becoming hooked on e-cigs.

No sense in any nonsmoker becoming hooked on e-cigs.

E-cigarettes are gaining steam.

A new store in Garden City, VaporWave, is among businesses now offering a variety of electronic cigarette options.

E-cigs, as they're known, are devices that simulate tobacco smoking with a heating element used to vaporize a liquid solution.

The product comes in an assortment of appealing flavors, such as cream soda, watermelon and many others.

The cost also is attractive: Someone accustomed to paying dearly for traditional smokes — they average more than $5 a pack in Kansas — could enjoy an e-cig for a fraction of the cost.

Early returns suggest the product may be an effective way to encourage tobacco users to kick the deadly habit.

Tobacco use linked to cancer, heart disease and other serious ailments kills more than 400,000 Americans every year, while exacting a cost of $96 billion annually for health care.

With those sobering statistics in mind, one would think the anti-tobacco crowd would welcome a growing interest in e-cigarettes.

But the electronic option has notable critics in the American Lung Association, American Heart Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, among others.

They understandably are concerned that teens and other consumers drawn to e-cigs might eventually move on to the unhealthy alternative, with e-cigs becoming a gateway to an addiction to tobacco cigarettes.

Both products do supply nicotine to addict their users.

Fruity and candy-like flavors available to e-cigarette users no doubt appeal to the younger set. E-cig use among students in grades 6-12 reportedly doubled from 2011 to 2012 nationwide.

Critics also worry that e-cigarettes are making smoking glamorous again, and possibly even socially acceptable — a step in the wrong direction at a time health advocates have worked to stigmatize smoking, and for good reason.

The challenge is in balancing such pitfalls with the potential for saving lives, lowering health-care costs and discouraging an unhealthy habit — which vapor cigarettes could accomplish.

The product should appeal to current smokers who could swap the negative health impact of tobacco for the same look and feel of a product without ingredients that kill, and not nonsmokers — young and old — who have yet to become addicted.

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